Daily Archives: November 17, 2006

Warsaw Bridge

Catalan underground filmmaker Pere Portabella’s opulent 1990 post-Franco color film threads its own dazzling anthology of attractions (including operas, concerts, a lecture, a novel, a swank party, a forest fire, and sex) into something resemblingthough never quite arriving ata single narrative. It’s one of his most exciting films to date. In Spanish and Catalan with subtitles. 85 min. (JR)… Read more »

Umbracle

Catalan underground filmmaker Pere Portabella’s 1970 Franco-era black-and-white experimental film is a provocation and protest composed of many dissimilar parts, ranging from Christopher Lee touring Barcelona to aggressive repetitions and/or displacements of sound and image. Like his previous Cuadecuc-Vampir, it’s alternately funny and creepy. In Spanish and Catalan with subtitles. 85 min. (JR)… Read more »

Fast Food Nation

This angry and persuasive piece of agitprop by writer-director Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise, A Scanner Darkly) and writer Eric Schlosser, adapting the latter’s nonfiction book of the same title, isn’t simply an account of how shit gets into our hamburgers. It’s also about Mexican immigrants who sneak across the border and wind up enslaved (or literally ground up) by meat packers, teenagers who work for fast-food companies and want to fight the system but don’t know how, and many other social as well as environmental factors. Many reviews have suggested that this is as politically mild as a John Sayles movie, but Linklater clearly agrees with the frustrated kid who says, Right now, I can’t think of anything more patriotic than violating the Patriot Act. The strong cast spelling this out includes Ashley Johnson, Patricia Arquette, Luis Guzman, Bruce Willis, Kris Kristofferson, Greg Kinnear, Ethan Hawke, and Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace). R, 114 min. (JR)… Read more »

Bobby

Old-fashioned in both its liberal humanism and its commitment to classic Hollywood storytelling, Emilio Estevez’s fictional account of what happened in LA’s Ambassador Hotel the day Bobby Kennedy was shot is also a fine example of old-fashioned studio craft. Deftly juggling over a dozen characters, ranging from hotel personnel and guests to Democratic Party volunteers, Estevez offers a sharp cross section of the issues and attitudes surrounding Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Without privileging any member of the talented cast, he gives many of them chances to shine, especially Sharon Stone, Freddy Rodriguez, Laurence Fishburne, and Martin Sheen. I can’t buy the film’s premise that RFK was this country’s last chance to save itself, but I’m stirred by the passion and thoughtfulness with which Estevez builds on it. R, 119 min. (JR)… Read more »

For Your Consideration

By now Christopher Guest’s brand of satire has become so formulaic it hardly matters that he disposes with the pseudodocumentary format this time. The subject is Oscar-season hype, a natural for him and his usual repertory of actors (Catherine O’Hara, cowriter Eugene Levy, Fred Willard, Parker Posey, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean), though far too mild to threaten any of their industry standing. A fairly preposterous low-budget period southern-Jewish melodrama called Home for Purim generates a tad of Oscar buzz thanks to an Internet rumor, and three members of the cast get worked up about it. This has its moments, but don’t expect many fresh insights. PG-13, 86 min. (JR)… Read more »

Fuck

If you’re wondering how Steve Anderson managed to make a 93-minute documentary about the ultimate four-letter word, which uses the epithet over 800 times, you’re underestimating his capacity to entertain and educate in roughly equal doses. His subject is naturally puritanism as well as obscenity, but even though he’s clearly on the side of the libertarians (ranging from Kevin Smith, Sandra Tsing Loh, and Hunter S. Thompson to Janeane Garofalo, Ice-T, and Bill Maher), he does manage to allow a fair number of prudes to have their sayincluding Pat Boone, who helpfully proposes his own last name as a viable substitute for the swearword. And he does keep things moving. (JR)… Read more »

Films By Pere Portabella

Two of the greatest works by Catalan underground filmmaker Pere Portabella. The Franco-era black-and-white Umbracle (1970, 85 min.) is a provocation and protest composed of many dissimilar parts, ranging from Christopher Lee touring Barcelona to aggressive repetitions of sound and image. The more opulent, post-Franco color film Warsaw Bridge (1989, 85 min.) threads its own anthology of attractions (including operas, concerts, a lecture, a novel, a swank party, a forest fire, and sex) into something resembling a single narrative. Both are in Spanish and Catalan with subtitles. (JR)… Read more »

What Is It?

The first feature (2005) of actor Crispin Glover (Dead Man, Willard), shot in 16-millimeter and blown up to 35, tries hard to be as eccentric as his performances and fully succeeds. It also manages to be fairly repulsive, which also seems intentional. Most of the cast members have Down syndrome — and another with cerebral palsy crouches naked in a giant seashell while monkey-faced porn actresses try to jerk him off. The thematic preoccupations include snails, cemeteries, swastikas, Shirley Temple, and an extremely racist country-western song. Glover, who appears in the film as a kind of barbarian dictator-auteur, lacks both the self-imposed ideological innocence and the talent for composing sounds and images of David Lynch, and I much prefer his ditsy slide shows. 72 min. (JR)… Read more »

Nouvelle Vague

Alain Delon stars in what may be the last truly great theatrical feature by Jean-Luc Godard to date (1990), though it’s never had a U.S. distributor. It’s also one of his most challenging and difficult films, which helps to explain its scarcity, but it’s also hard to think of many films in Godard’s career that look as beautiful. Filmed in lush Swiss locations that are very close to where Godard grew up, the film is in part a sustained reverie on what it means both to be rich and not to be rich, and the contrapuntal role played here by the wealthy characters and their servants is part of what makes this film so operatic in feeling. In keeping with Godard’s compulsive practice of quoting, every line of dialogue is purportedly traceable to a literary source, with Raymond Chandler and William Faulkner among the many authors utilized. In French with subtitles. 84 min. (JR)… Read more »

The Driller Killer

I put off seeing Abel Ferrara’s second feature (which came after his pseudonymous Nine Lives of a Wet Pussy) for years because of its title, but when I finally caught up with it I found it a lot more interesting and substantial than I’d imagined — and only incidentally the exploitation horror item it was apparently supposed to be. Ferrara stars (again pseudonymously) as a painter sharing a downtown Manhattan loft with two women who, gradually driven insane by money problems, a punk band located on the floor below, and other frustrations, starts murdering street derelicts with a power drill. The script by Nicholas St. John (who would become a Ferrara regular) not only anticipates American Psycho but offers a fascinating look at New York’s bohemian art scene circa 1979. 96 min. (JR)… Read more »

Films by Pere Portabella

Two of the greatest works by Catalan underground filmmaker Pere Portabella. The Franco-era black-and-white Umbracle (1970, 85 min.) is a provocation and protest composed of many dissimilar parts, ranging from Christopher Lee touring Barcelona to aggressive repetitions of sound and image. The more opulent, post-Franco color film Warsaw Bridge (1990, 85 min.) threads its own anthology of attractions (including operas, concerts, a lecture, a novel, a swank party, a forest fire, and sex) into something resembling a single narrative. Both are in Spanish and Catalan with subtitles. a Fri 11/17, 8 PM (Warsaw), Sat 11/18, 5 PM (Umbracle), Mon 11/20, 6 PM (Warsaw), and Wed 11/22, 8 PM (Umbracle), Gene Siskel Film Center.… Read more »

Fast Food Nation

This angry and persuasive piece of agitprop by writer-director Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise, A Scanner Darkly) and writer Eric Schlosser, adapting the latter’s nonfiction book of the same title, isn’t simply an account of how shit gets into our hamburgers. It’s also about Mexican immigrants who sneak across the border and wind up enslaved (or literally ground up) by meat packers, teenagers who work for fast-food companies and want to fight the system but don’t know how, and many other social as well as environmental factors. Many reviews have suggested that this is as politically mild as a John Sayles movie, but Linklater clearly agrees with the frustrated kid who says, “Right now, I can’t think of anything more patriotic than violating the Patriot Act.” The strong cast spelling this out includes Ashley Johnson, Patricia Arquette, Luis Guzman, Bruce Willis, Kris Kristofferson, Greg Kinnear, Ethan Hawke, and Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace). R, 114 min. a Century 12 and CineArts6, Crown Village 18, Landmark’s Century Centre, River East 21. … Read more »